11.02.2012

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson, 392 pp, RL 4




I feel like there are some high-minded reasons why I should be opposed to Hope Larson's graphic novel adaptation of by Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery winner A Wrinkle in Time (you can read my review of the book, first published in 1962, here.) Maybe it's because most people don't like other artists messing with their childhood favorites, myself included. Having grown up with the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I couldn't bring myself to see Tim Burton's version. And, while I refused to watch the 2003 made-for-television movie of A Wrinkle in Time, somehow, a graphic novel, even knowing that by its very nature it must be adapted and truncated, felt like a really good idea. I was very excited to revisit this book that had meant so much to me as a kid - Meg wasn't pretty! She wore glasses! She wasn't a brainiac, well she was, but in a weird way! She got into fights! She was so unlike Nancy Drew every Judy Blume character I had every read that I clung to her and her story. Early in my career as a bookseller I led a Newbery book group, attended almost exclusively by bright, precocious girls, and I watched them struggle with A Wrinkle in Time and fail to embrace it. In the following years  I watched A Wrinkle in Time sell remarkably well, but I also noticed that the rest of the series sold significantly less well and I rarely heard young customers grabbing the book and exclaiming over it as they did other titles on the shelves. I have long suspected that, despite the greatness of this book, it is a hard read for most kids today. My hope is that readers who loved the book as kids will revisit it in this new form and, more importantly, that young readers who might have passed over L'Engle's book or tried it an lost interest might pick up Larson's adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, fall in love with it and read the rest of the series,

Which is another reason I am so excited by Hope Larson's graphic novel A Wrinkle in Time. This illustrated version of the book takes the cerebral, philosophical, intellectual (Mrs Who finds it easier to speak in her human form when she quotes the likes of Shakespeare, Buddha, Pascal, Seneca, Dante, the Bible and more) story and makes it accessible. I'll be honest, reading the graphic novel of A Wrinkle in Time even clarified some of the major themes for me. While she has to leave a lot out and parts of the graphic novel feel just spare at times, Larson does follow the book chapter by chapter. In an interview with the LA Times Larson revealed that the publisher was approached by the estate of Madeleine L'Engle with the idea of creating a graphic novel of A Wrinkle in Time and from there the publisher (and editor), Margaret Ferguson Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, approached Larson.
I know I re-read, or, more likely listened to the audio, of A Wrinkle in Time to write my review of the book in 2009. The original audio of the book was narrated by L'Engle, who was an actress herself, in a very nasally, school matron sort of voice that was almost unbearable (form your own opinion and take a listen here.) This year, a new recording by the fantastic actress Hope Davis (to listen, click here) was released. If you remain skeptical of a graphic novel adaptation of this children's classic, please jump right now to librarian Travis Jonker's review at his blog, 100 Scope Notes. Jonker, noting that his memory of A Wrinkle in Time was a bit rusty, read the book and the graphic novel side-by-side and  found Larson's book to be an almost word-for-word translation of the dialog from the book, L'Engle's descriptions becoming Larson's illustrations. Personally, despite having revisited this book just three years ago, Larson's book feels fresh and exciting. Certain things that I had a distinct visual of from my childhood, like the Murry house (which I just learned was modeled after the L'Engle home, Crosswicks) looked just like I had always imagined and I was thrilled to see it made real in the graphic novel. Fortinbras, the Murry's dog and namesake of my own big, black dog, didn't look quite like what I had imagined, but I think, considering Larson's artistic style, a black dog would have been hard to draw.
Speaking of Larson's style, I love it and think it is an absolute perfect fit with the tone of L'Engle's book. Meg spends most of the novel with a smudgy bruise on her face, the leftovers from her fight to defend Charles Wallace. This is something that is mentioned once or twice in the book, but seeing it in every frame, every square of Larson's graphic novel makes Meg's personality and place in the world painfully, persistently evident. It was also wonderful to have visuals for things that I had a hard time imagining as I read/listened to L'Engle's book as a child and adult. Aunt Beast, the Man with the Red Eyes, the Brain and the containment chamber where Dr Murry is held on Camazotz all came to life for me as I read the graphic novel edition of A Wrinkle in Time. The cool blue that highlights the black and white artwork add to the science fiction, otherworldly aspects of the book as well as the tension of the story. Larson has said that she doesn't think she will do another adaptation of someone else's work in the future, I hope she hasn't ruled it out. She has done such an amazing job with Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery winning book that I know I am going to spend many wasted minutes daydreaming about the next classic I'd like to see treated to a graphic novelization and exactly who should do it...

Source: Review Copy

3 comments:

Jeremy said...

Looks amazing -- thanks for the heads' up!

T. said...

My introduction to Hope Larson's work came in the form of her first solo graphic novel, Salamander Dream.

http://www.amazon.com/Salamander-Dream-Hope-Larson/dp/0972179496/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1351963729&sr=1-1

It was one of the first books I downloaded on my kindle because I thought both my daughter and I could enjoy it. I was very right! It is sublime and ethereal in the way that seeps down into your bones. While I try to keep my kindle 'cleaned up' by archiving all of the nonessential books, Salamander Dream has a permanent location in my active items!

Tanya said...

Thanks so much for that recommendation! I am always looking for great new graphic novels and I was so impressed with Larson's work on WiT.SALAMANDER DREAM is next on my list of books to buy!